Master’s Student Abigail Upshaw spent four weeks in Rome this summer doing research for her thesis. Abby spent three weeks of this time in an intensive/immersion Italian language program. Her thesis is on Michelangelo’s Cleopatra and her research this summer pertained to the recipient of the drawing, Tommaso de’Cavalieri. Her primary research was conducted at the Capitoline Archives (The Archivio Storico Capitollino).
At the archives, Abby was granted access to the minutes of the meetings of the Conservators from the years 1530-1540. She was allowed to handle the manuscripts and take photographs of pertinent entries. Her interest in Tommaso lies in his involvement with Roman civic government during the early 16th century. The documents provided information on his attendance of meetings and most importantly his involvement in the execution of Michelangelo’s designs for the Campigdolio-Capitoline Hill. She is excited to finish her translations from the original Latin and synthesize this material into a chapter of her thesis. Abby also visited the Cavalieri Chapel in Santa Maria in Aracoeli in order to photograph all inscriptions pertaining to Tommaso and his immediate descendants. She also took advantage of her stay and visited many important sites to Renaissance Studies including the Villa Farnesina and the Vatican as well.
This summer Undergraduate student Anairis Perez conducted her own research with University of Pennsylvania Associate Professor of American Art through the Leadership Alliance Summer Program. Her research dealt with integrating cultural criticism into Art History curriculum, seeking to better engage multicultural communities. At the end of her research she participated in the Alliance’s National Symposium, where she was able to present her research.
Art is frequently associated with the ability to illicit emotional response, to promote social change, and to transcend differences in order to promote the communion of disparate perspectives. Exposing students to the work of artists from diverse backgrounds can accomplish this, yet the teaching of Art History is taught from a traditionally European perspective. Instead of adhering to the colonial model, I am calling for the integration of cultural criticism in the Art History curriculum. Critical interrogation has the potential to engage questions of cultural identity in a way that motivates students to be skeptical of preconceived notions of race and gender in the U.S. The goal of my research project is to reinforce the ongoing struggle for equality in our multicultural communities through the discipline of Art History, and is greatly influenced by recent scholarship on cultural criticism. By educating students to critically analyze the established norms, we can hope to become a more conscious society that is receptive to criticism and sympathetic to the sensibilities of others. Art History can be an effective tool for learning ways people from ethnic groups represent themselves and comparing them to the presuppositions in our society based on race and gender. Cultural criticism in the classroom can ultimately undermine the binaries of us/them in order to stimulate community.